Planning Appeals

Appealing a decision made on an application can take place but has to be done to recognised procedures and within a set period of time.

An applicant who is dissatisfied with our decision may appeal to the Secretary of State for a review.  Only the applicant, or an agent acting on their behalf can apply.

Appeals have to be lodged within strict deadlines following receipt of the decision. The timescales within which to submit an appeal (between 8 weeks and 6 months) are available at section 2.4 of the Procedural Guide - Planning Appeals

Appeals can be made on the following grounds:

  • Failure to determine the application within 8 weeks or 13 weeks for major applications (unless an extension of time was agreed) 
  • Planning permission was refused 
  • Planning permission was granted, but is subject to conditions to which the applicant objects

There is no third-party right of appeal in England, objectors cannot appeal against a decision. However, if an applicant appeals, third parties do have the right to make comments as part of the appeal process.

Appeals Process

Appeals are made to the Secretary of State who delegates decisions on almost all cases to the Planning Inspectorate. They in turn appoint an Inspector to judge individual cases.

The Inspectors are impartial and are professionally qualified in planning or a related area, such as law or architecture. Most appeals are decided by the Inspector, but a few are decided by the Secretary of State.

The latter are normally major developments affecting a wide area. In these cases an Inspector will still assess the appeal. They will submit a report and recommendation to the Secretary of State who then makes a final decision.

Appeals can be pursued in three ways:

  • The written representations procedure
  • An informal hearing procedure
  • The public local inquiry procedure

Appeal a planning decision

Written Representations

This is the simplest and most common process, most appeals are handled in this way. The procedure involves the exchange of written statements between the applicant, planning authority and any third parties.

Each party then gets an opportunity to see and comment upon the cases put forward by the others. There is a site visit by the Inspector.

Informal Hearings

These are a structured discussion of the appeal proposals, led by the Inspector. The hearings are held in council offices, village halls or community centres close to the appeal site.

Each party submits a written statement setting out their case at least three weeks before the hearing. There is the opportunity for each party to comment upon the written statement submitted by others.

At the hearing, the Inspector will identify key points for discussion and allow each party a say on them.

Public Local Inquiry

This is the most formal way of determining appeals, often involving the larger and more complex development proposals. The proceedings are formally structured and it is usual for the parties to have legal representation.

At inquiries, evidence is presented by professional witnesses and is subject to cross-examination. An inquiry may last for several days or even weeks. It is not a court of law, but the proceedings will often seem as if they are.

Inquiries are open to members of the public. Inspectors are usually happy to let people have their say. Local knowledge and opinion can often be a valuable addition to the more formal evidence given by the appellant or the planning authority. As with other forms of appeal, a site visit is held.

The Government and Planning Inspectorate are increasingly seeking ways of speeding up the appeals process. Although either the appellant or the planning authority can press for a hearing or inquiry, the final decision on procedure rests with the Inspectorate. Written representations are favoured, wherever possible, with informal hearings seen as a cheaper and quicker alternative to inquiries.


All parties to planning appeals are normally expected to bear their own costs. However, a claim for reimbursement of all or part of the costs incurred can be made if a party has been put to unnecessary expense because of another party's unreasonable behaviour.

The Inspector considers the claim and decides whether the costs claim should be awarded. Costs may only be awarded in informal hearing or public inquiry appeals. The one exception to this is that costs may be awarded in an enforcement appeal which has been determined by written representations.

Unreasonable behaviour can include cases where the planning authority puts forward a reason for refusal which it cannot later substantiate. This then results in additional costs for an appellant in engaging expert advice to counter it.

An appellant may also be considered unreasonable in pulling out of an appeal immediately prior to a hearing or inquiry, when the local authority has incurred costs in preparing its case.

The award of costs relates only to the costs incurred in preparing for an appeal which arise from unreasonable behaviour. Sometimes, Inspectors may accept one part of a costs claim and dismiss another, resulting in a partial award of costs.

Challenging decisions

The result of an appeal can only be challenged on legal grounds in the High Court. To be successful, the legal challenge would have to show that either the local authority or the Secretary of State had gone beyond their legal powers.

For example, in taking into account something which was not material to a proper planning decision, or conversely, failing to take into account something which was material. Or indeed the proper procedures were not followed and that this damaged the interests of a party to the appeal.

A successful challenge in the High Court will quash the original decision and return the case to the decision maker who will have to look at it again. This does not necessarily mean the original decision will be reversed, as reconsideration may lead to the same outcome as the original quashed decision.

Any challenge to the appeal decision must be made within six weeks of the appeal decision letter.